FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Interest Groups, Special and Public

We often hear politicians call their opponents an “interest group.” What does that mean? It can be misleading.

When the citizens of a town try to fix a bad ordinance so that their lives are safer, more productive, more prosperous and more equally just for all, should they have that right? Of course. They are acting in the public interest.

When a profit-seeking corporation tries to fix a state law so that business lowers costs at the expense of their workers, taxpayers, and the healthy cleanliness of drinking water, should they have that right? Of course not. They are acting as a special interest group, that is, a narrow elite will profit and all else will pay the costs, meaning that special interest groups are usually acting against the public interest.

Of course, there are cases that are mixtures of the two and, in a democracy, those deserve the most public discourse so that everyone can be heard and a wise decision can be made.

Is a group dedicated to equal justice for all a special interest group? According to a judge in Scotland Neck, North Carolina, yes. When a 61-year-old African American man, Roger Anthony, refused to stop riding his bicycle in November 2011, a 27-year-old white cop driving alongside him shot him with a taser. Anthony was knocked from his moving bike and his head received a fatal blow on the pavement.

There were no complaints of any criminal or suspicious activity by Anthony except for Biking While Black. This was so egregious that the District Attorney filed misdemeanor assault charges and then allowed the police officer to take advantage of a plea bargain that put him on probation. The judge agreed.

The spokesperson for the local NAACP told the media it was unjust that a any man should attack another, kill him, and never serve a day in jail. The judge waved aside those comments, telling the inquiring journalist that the NAACP is a “special interest” group.

What an interesting use of that term. If people of color want equal rights, that, to a North Carolina judge, is a special interest group. Really? What’s next? Those who want clean air are part of a special interest group? The Association of Air Breathers would probably include most humans. Justice for all seems to be a fairly universal, public interest, goal.

What of the case of a corporation that services the military? Do they get to claim public interest status or are they special interest? The Pentagon burns through approximately $2 billion daily, every day, seven days a week, and watching their massive bleed off to war profiteers is instructive. On 29 June it was announced by the DoD that, amongst many other contracts to many profiteers, Lockheed would get another $119 million to spruce up Balad Air Base in Iraq. “This contract is 100-percent foreign military sales. This award is the result of a sole-source acquisition,” noted the Air Force. In other words, your tax money that you worked for going to fix a base in Iraq and no bids were taken. Does this smack of a Good Old War Profiteers Club special interest grab to anyone else?

What if that $119 million were used to create jobs for every young person willing to work in our national forests, pulling out downed wood to be used for a variety of purposes? Or perhaps it could provide some educational opportunities for STEM education for our public schoolchildren. There are so many life-affirming, infrastructural, palliative projects that need funding to give all of us a better life. In the public interest.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is Founding Director of PeaceVoice

 

More articles by:

Tom H. Hastings is core faculty in the Conflict Resolution Department at Portland State University and founding director of PeaceVoice

September 20, 2018
Michael Hudson
Wasting the Lehman Crisis: What Was Not Saved Was the Economy
John Pilger
Hold the Front Page, the Reporters are Missing
Kenn Orphan
The Power of Language in the Anthropocene
Paul Cox – Stan Cox
Puerto Rico’s Unnatural Disaster Rolls on Into Year Two
Rajan Menon
Yemen’s Descent Into Hell: a Saudi-American War of Terror
Russell Mokhiber
Nick Brana Says Dems Will Again Deny Sanders Presidential Nomination
Nicholas Levis
Three Lessons of Occupy Wall Street, With a Fair Dose of Memory
Steve Martinot
The Constitutionality of Homeless Encampments
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
The Aftershocks of the Economic Collapse Are Still Being Felt
Jesse Jackson
By Enforcing Climate Change Denial, Trump Puts Us All in Peril
George Wuerthner
Coyote Killing is Counter Productive
Mel Gurtov
On Dealing with China
Dean Baker
How to Reduce Corruption in Medicine: Remove the Money
September 19, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
When Bernie Sold Out His Hero, Anti-Authoritarians Paid
Lawrence Davidson
Political Fragmentation on the Homefront
George Ochenski
How’s That “Chinese Hoax” Treating You, Mr. President?
Cesar Chelala
The Afghan Morass
Chris Wright
Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class
Howard Lisnoff
The Beat Goes On Against Protest in Saudi Arabia
Nomi Prins 
The Donald in Wonderland: Down the Financial Rabbit Hole With Trump
Jack Rasmus
On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?
Richard Schuberth
Make Them Suffer Too
Geoff Beckman
Kavanaugh in Extremis
Jonathan Engel
Rather Than Mining in Irreplaceable Wilderness, Why Can’t We Mine Landfills?
Binoy Kampmark
Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail